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INTRODUCING AJAN IN KENYA

As co-ordinator I was invited to introduce AJAN at the Kangemi parish and at the Loyola residence in Nairobi.

On 12 February, the Kangemi parish community asked about my experiences
leading up to the new mission of AIDS co-ordinator. One strong hope was that AJAN could keep attention focused on the many different facets of AIDS, without oversimplifying them.

Kangemi’s small
Christian communities do most of the AIDS ministry in the parish. This generous effort with its ups and downs over the years, reflects local cultural values at their best: sharing, caring and solidarity
with those who suffer most. But the volunteer effort needs more professional back-up, and any attempt to overcome stigma or educate towards responsibility can only build on the ministry of direct care.

On 14 February, the Loyola community highlighted 10 to 15 years of experience which Jesuits in Kenya have of accompanying those with AIDS: the remarkable work of Nyumbani orphanage and many other examples
of low-profile and indeed silent accompaniment. This also means 10 to 15 years of suffering, mourning and loss. The approaches to AIDS, the forms of AIDS ministry, are developing and evolving in response
to the pandemic. The Jesuits are beginning to provide funding to assist HIV/AIDS-affected families with their education needs, in Christ the King Parish in Kibera Linesaba.

One conclusion was that
research into AIDS should always be balanced with relief programs that alleviate the immediate suffering, and that the fruits of research should not just be “taken away” but also given back as information
and other benefits to the community.

For further information regarding Jesuit AIDS Ministry in Kenya, please contact Gerry Whelan SJ, pastor of St Joseph the Worker <gerry@sjeafr.org> and Terry Charlton
SJ, superior of Loyola House <charlton@zaidicentre.com>

ZAMBIA: BUYING MORE TIME

“I am a chaplain, Director of Pastoral Care, at Lusaka’s University Teaching Hospital in Zambia with an estimated 1,800 beds.

I anguish over the AIDS crisis. What bothers me most is a person contracting the virus in the west can expect to live 10 to 15 years, while someone in our country has far less time. How
can we give our young people more time?
Today as I manoeuvred my old VW Golf down a potholed street in a suburb of Lusaka, I was reminded of the scourge. The short street was the length of two city
blocks, and there were two funerals at two different houses. My conjecture was that the deaths were the result of AIDs-related diseases.

Yet many deaths
might be avoided, or, at least, postponed. What I am advocating is nation-wide voluntary AIDS testing. I am aware of the reluctance with which testing is viewed, as there are added risks, like stigma and
fear of becoming as a pariah. In Africa, if negative, I say: ‘Thanks be to God. From now on I will be very, very careful.’

If positive I say: ‘Now I know,’
and if I live in Zambia I will get a scheme card, be processed and go for counselling and a determination of my viral load. With medication and proper diet, I face a different future. The seeming death
sentence could be commuted to a life of rigid, monitored routine. At least, I would be alive. ‘Who knows, maybe in a few years a cure will be developed, and had I chosen to reject the test, the cure would
be of no avail to me.’

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